A Southern Californian artist named Betsy Davis, diagnosed with ALS, recently held an end-of-life party in Ojai, screening her favorite Jodorowsky film before ingesting a lethal cocktail. Most people who choose to die won’t have that privilege. They begrudgingly accept death, knowing they may suffer. But the subjects in End of Life aren’t suffering, exactly. Rather, they are slowly fading, like a film shot gradually dissipating. My grandmother recently passed away of a stroke in her sleep at the age of 85. It’s comforting to know she didn’t suffer. And maybe that’s all we can ask for.
Maybe that’s why Dass, as Wojtasik tells me, is more attracted to the culture surrounding death in Asian countries like India and Nepal. When an elder is dying in India, friends and family surround them. The afterlife consists of everyone’s souls. In Western cultures, we are often alone when we die, our souls considered solitary beings. Is this why we are so afraid of death?
End of Life confronts that notion. If a camera is watching, if we are allowed to watch, then we might all realize that we’re in it together. That we’re not alone. And that might just make dying a little less scary.